By Maciej Golubiewski

NEW YORK, December 13, 2007 ( – At a meeting of the European Parliament this week, the European Large Families Confederation (ELFAC) warned that the long-term economic well-being of large families is “seriously compromised” by current EU family policies. 

Stating that “large families are the only key to the demographic future of Europe,” ELFAC argued that the EU’s current policy towards the demographic crisis in Europe ignores the fact that almost a third of European women aged 20-34 years would like to have three or more children while the birth rates in many EU countries continue to drop alarmingly. 

ELFAC argues that the EU’s family focus is on the “average” woman, which creates inequalities for large families since these policies are based on a family size of fewer than three children.

Large families are treated as only marginally important for the well-being of the whole society and family life is devalued to the level of a “hobby.”  Instead, the EU focuses on programs such as promoting reconciliation of work and family life, while ignoring the fact that policy should also be geared to women who choose to stay at home and care for their children, which is not recognized as “work” in any of the policy documents. 

This situation of deprivation, which stops many women from having more children, is evident by the scant attention paid to those families who against all odds decided to have more children according to ELFAC. The group points to such failures of policy as no value-added tax exemptions on obligatory products for children (e.g. car seats), very low tax deductions for children, lowering of child allowances after a child reaches three years of age, and taxation schemes that penalize married and widowed parents.

Recent data on the ideal family size in Europe show that the fertility rate of 2.1, which is needed for keeping the population at a replacement level, can be achieved if more policy effort is spent simply on helping these women achieve their goal. Currently, not a single EU country has the desired fertility level and six countries are experiencing dangerously low fertility rates under 1.4.

Calling for a meaningful change in the social attitudes towards the family, ELFAC advocates that a policy priority should be first to acknowledge that close to a third of European women do not seem to have “a right” to have more than two children, and that helping these women will singlehandedly solve the demographic problem in Europe. 

ELFAC’s report ends with a call to the EU and national government authorities to improve their family policies “so that the minority of women that want to have three or more children are free to have, raise and educate them.”  It also includes a pledge to provide the EU institutions of up to five experts specializing in the needs of large families.